Ask Tom: Rants, raves and questions on the DC dining scene

Apr 10, 2013

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema entertains your dining questions, rants and raves.

Find all of Tom Sietsema's Washington Post work at

Tom, I am excited to try Le Diplomate since I have been to some of their other places in Philadelphia and have always had a good experience. Have you tried the new place yet? Who is the chef? Any inside scoupe (sorry, I don't speak French). Take care!

The first DC venture from Philadelphia restaurant maven Stephen Starr, Le Diplomate has been open only for a few days now. Its chef is Adam Schop, who I had a chance chat with when he was eating his way through Paris bistros back in February. My take-away after one meal in his vast new roost: Schop's may be the best steak frites in town. And as an early patron, I got a 10 % discount. ( The deal runs through Sunday.)


My colleague Tim Carman conducted a Q & A with Starr, in which the restaurateur said he thought about coming to the District as early as 1995 and that the project cost him $6.5 million.


Lots to chew over today: Not just the launch of Le Diplomate in Logan Circle, but also a change of guard at both Trummer's on Main in Clifton, Va., and ---  breaking news here! ---  Perry's in Adams Morgan, which just lost its head chef, Robert Dahlia.


  The owner of Perry's, Saied Azali, tells me he plans to overhaul the concept at his American restaurant, which includes a popular sushi bar, and give it even more of an Asian focus. (Any chefs out there up for the challenge? Azali wants to hear from you, and pronto. He'd like to introduce the changes as early as the middle of May.)


Finally, if you want to treat someone to a truly extraordinary evening, I suggest it be the subject of my Food section preview of Roberto's 4, an intimate restaurant-within-a-restaurant at Al Dente


I'm off to Paris next Wednesday, so I won't be chatting April 17. But I'll be back to field your questions and comments April 24.


Ready?  Let's begin.

Regarding the question from April 3rd on holding a place in line for other people at Little Serow. As a DC person this question amused me. On Capitol Hill it's the understood rule that you can not hold a place in line for an extra person at a Congressional hearing. You can have someone else stand in line for you (paid line sitter, intern) but that only allows one person in the room. Seems a bit strict for Little Serow, but maybe a modified policy would make sense - you can only hold a space for one extra person. That said, who would have to enforce this? It would end up being a mess!

I've not heard that about Congressional hearings, but it makes good sense to me, at least on the Hill.


Has anyone ever heard of anyone paying someone to hold a place for them at Little Serow? Sounds like it could be decent part-time employment for some folks.

Tom, what are your thoughts on tipping at a restaurant that has, for example, a regular half-price burger night, so the burger is something on the order of $4.50 as opposed to the regular price of $9.00. Assuming good service, should I just tip my normal 20% on whatever total is on the check, up the ante a bit due to the reduced cost of the main course, or tip on what the main course would have cost on any other night? Some other approach? Thank You!

Personally, I would tip about 20 percent on the regular price of the burger -- provided the service was positive --  because 1) I've been a waiter before and I know how hard good servers work 2) I cover the industry and I think I should support it monetarily and 3) it's just a couple of extra bucks and why not make someone's shift and be generous? 


Chatters, please weigh in with your thoughts on the matter.

We're celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary at the end of the month and want to go out for a somewhat fancy and romantic dinner in DC or MD. We've missed the boat on getting Saturday night reservations at any of our ideal choices (CityZen, Rasika), so we're looking for other options. A few places we have been considering include: Restaurant Nora, Raskia West End, Blue Duck Tavern. Do you have any advice or suggestions? Thanks!

Restaurant Nora is in a good place right now. I had a swell dinner there a couple months ago. So that's an option. Don't forget the omakase menu staged in the back of Sushi Taro in Dupont Circle or Bistro Provence, Yannick Cam's French lair, in Bethesda, either. And while it might not be "fancy," the youthful Table in Shaw certainly ranks as delicious and interesting.

Tom, had dinner at Bourbon Steak last Friday... meh. The steak was not amazing, though the lobster pot pie was delicious. For my money, Flemings in Tysons Corner beats Bourbon Steak, Morton's and Ruth's Chris. Have you tried Flemings?

I've been to Flemings, but years ago, when the steak house opened in Tysons Corner. Its wine program impressed me most. What specifically was it about your beef at Bourbon Steak that didn't wow you.

The best meal we had in Paris was at the tiny Ribouldingue. The staff does not speak English and the menu is unusual, so bone up on your culinary French. Biggest surprise was when I peeked in the kitchen to say "Merci beaucoup" but had to say "Domo arigato" instead!

I adore that two-room restaurant near Notre-Dame cathedral. But you have to like innards to eat there; the owner is the daughter and grand-daughter of butchers and her menu reflects that.

I'll be returning to the District for a visit and would love to hear your restaurant recommendations for a long weekend in the city. I used to live in DC and went to law school at George Washington, but that was a few years ago now (almost a decade!). So it's been too long for me to know where to go! I'd love some gourmet high end dining options and some that are maybe more casual and uniquely DC. Thanks in advance if you select my question!

You are most welcome!  My short list for someone who used to live here, and someone who wants a high/low mix of dining options, would include Rasika, Mintwood Place and Fiola on the splurge nights and Thai X-ing, Ethiopic and the new ramen house, Daikaya, on the budget evenings.  I think you are going to be wowed by the changes that have occurred in the city since you were last here.

Tom-- We are heading out to San Francisco for a conference in a couple of weeks--any can't miss recommendations? We have a reservation for Gary Danko but nothing else specific planned at this point.

I've typed this a million times, but you *must* go to Zuni Cafe, where you *must* get some oysters, a margarita (or three), a burger (lunch only), a salad of celery and anchovies, the roast chicken with bread salad (for two), espresso granita for dessert. Heaven.

I originally asked the question last week and want to make sure that it came through that I don't expect or desire for Little Serrow to change their policy or have to police the line. They're obviously working hard and doing a great job and would hate for them to have to deal with what goes on outside their restaurant.

Possible slogan: "What happens outside Little Serow stays outside Little Serow."

I wonder if your experiences these days are not adjusted because you are recognized. Our experience at Range was quite different from yours. Despite having a reservation, we were not seated for 15 min, and then, after waiting for drinks for another 15 min, flagged down a Captain who did speed things along (and then comped some appetizers to acknowledge the problem). While the food was good, the overall noise level and traffic passing our table (we were seated in the main glass-enclosed area along the kitchen) made it more like Grand Central Station than a restaurant, making conversation virtually impossible.

Yours is like, the 40th complaint I've had since I wrote my three-star review of Range. I'd be really disappointed if the good service and cooking I got was just for me, but the evidence is mounting. Bums me out.  

Over the weekend, I overheard several wait staff and hostesses discussing customers. While I realize that everyone needs to vent and goodness knows especially those who deal with the public, wait staff need to realize that there are times they can be heard. When you refer to a customer as "the fattie at table 12" or the hostess calls someone at table 5 an airhead, you might want to realize that the fattie at table 12 or the airhead can hear you. Also for those in ethnic restaurants, many of us English looking patrons can speak other languages so you might want to tone down the conversation about us.

Great advice -- and it applies to diners, too!

Hi Tom, Just want to second your enthusiasm for Malgudi. You mentioned it in a chat weeks before your "First Bite" column, and when I couldn't get into Rasika, we went there. The food was amazing -- concur about the cauliflower poppers, the poblano with lamb, and the dhosas (we had one with curried potatoes inside). We also had their version of chicken curry, which was different than the norm -- sauce was thinner (more gravy than sauce) and less uniform (could see herbs and spices) -- delicious. Also, very reasonably prices (dinner for 2 with 2 glasses of wine and a beer was $66). When we were there (7:30 on a Saturday) it was deserted -- I hope more people visit so that this great addition stays open.

Me too! I dig that place: the food, the prices, the style ...

Have to give kudos to Eve. It is always amazing, but we were in last weekend and there were 5 vegtarian apps and three vegetarian mains. We had the chikpea pancake, roasted shitakes with kimchi and harissa, roasted squash with wheatberries, and carrot and sage agnolotti with local goat cheese and pea shoots. My non-veg husband was groaning at how amazing everything was. (the almond milk pot de creme with cocoa mousse for dessert was also ridiculously good). I know people get sick of hearing it, but I really think the place is just getting better.

Thanks for the field report. It's great to learn about the many meatless options at Eve.  Plus, I'm more impressed with what a chef can do with vegetables than with the more obvious beef, lamb or pork. I think vegetables take more thought, more finesse.

Do your recommand The Grill Room for a birthday dinner? We love Adour, Fiola, Blue Duck, Rasika. Thanks for your help

I would probably go to Adour, Fiola, Blue Duck and Rasika before going to the new dining room in the Capella hotel in Georgetown.

It's that hair. Ever thought of shaving it, or going with a mohawk, to throw people off?


Yep, agreed. Tip on the original price of the meal, not the discounted price. And yes, 20% if service is decent. I too used to wait tables - it can be tough work


I have no problem with line-holding outside Little Serow -- why should my in-laws be forced to stand outside in a line for at least an hour when my husband is willing to to it and then have us join him when it's closer to opening time? What next? Are you going to be required to have your entire party there before you're allowed to wait in line? Boy, if people don't like not being seated until their entire party is there, imagine how this would go over! Frankly, I think the OP should be more irritated with Little Serow for not taking ANY reservations than with people smart enough to not waste their entire party's time in line. I simply can't imagine that if the restaurant took a limited number of reservations and kept the rest of the restaurant open for line-dwellers that they'd ever have an empty table.

But the way it works now -- in Little Serow's favor -- means there need never be an empty seat, which is a possibility if the restaurant did as you suggested (accept even a small number of bookings).  Trust me, there's always someone, a no-show, that ruins it for the rest of us and creates these no-reservations policies.

This. The waitstaff is working exactly as much as if there were no discount on the food.

Preaching to the choir!

Tom: First, I wanted to thank you for your great piece with Joe Yonan on "secret" vegetarian menus in some of DC's finer dining places. It has made me rethink my reticence to eat at some places whose menus don't have many veggie options (i now have a reservation at mintwood for my anniversary). My questions is what do you suggest veg diners do when restaurants underwhelm in the chef's special vegetarian dish? For example, I was at a work lunch at Johnny's Half Shell yesterday where the veg option was, I kid you not, 8 pieces of roasted vegetables (three broccoli, two cauliflower, and a couple of vegetables I cannot name). I didn't think it appropriate to stop in the middle of the lunch to get a manager, but left the lunch still hungry (and was bummed I couldn't stop at Taco Nacional) any longer? What do you suggest? I know it's a seafood place, but.... the chats!

In this day and age, it's unbelievable that a major restaurant wouldn't have at least two interesting meatless options on its menu. Not just for diners who don't eat meat, but for those like myself who want to cut back or like variety now and then.   What you got at Johnny's Half Shell sounds like a lazy kitchen.


P.S. Thanks for the kinds words about our  meatless dining adventures around the city.

So, for her 90th birthday, my sweet Italian grandmother wants to come to DC to see the sights (and the house my husband and I recently bought and restored). I am at a loss when it comes to where this landmark birthday should be celebrated and am in serious need of your help. She claims to have never had a crab cake, so I have been trying to come up with classy places that make good ones. Other than that, I have no ideas and there are no real restrictions.... she has all her marbles and her hearing is fine but her mobility can be a little limited. Price is not a factor (um, not IALW, though, okay?) nor is location (though we'll be coming from Hill East, if it matters). There will be six of us, adults and adventurous eaters all. Her actual birthday is 4 May, so I have a little time to make a decision and a reservation. Thanks so much, Tom!

Your nonna sounds awesome. She will leave Washington loving crab cakes if you take her to the civilized Vidalia downtown, where $18 buys an extraordinary appetizer built from jumbo lump crab and garnished with smoked hamb and a zesty mustard sauce.


Chatters, please share your favorite sources for crab cakes. 

Just wanted to mention that the name Malgudi comes from the fictional South Indian town in which Indian author RK Narayan set many of his stories. Great idea to use it as a restaurant name.

I meant to write that. Thanks for bringing it up.

Consider ditching the "house-made" in your reviews, particularly when it refers to kitchen fundamentals that are made with a machine or common appliance (sausage, pasta, mayonnaise, ice-cream, etc..). It is a bit dated and obsolete given most of the chefs' skills set.

You think? Ice cream maybe. Mayo, too. But I think readers appreciate knowing about the extra efforts some chefs make. Not all sausage is created equal, that's for sure.

Hi Tom - I just got back from Amsterdam and Turkey with wonderful things to report and lots of praise for your suggestions! In Amsterdam, we had our first dinner at your recommendation Greetje which was just the place to experience our first dutch meal. The ambiance was relaxed which helped with the jet lag, the service was great, and the food was excellent. On our second night, we went to Cafe Toscanini which my mother loved mostly because it made us feel less like tourists. It was in a nice off the beaten path area that provided a respite from the cold temps outside. The food was good, my only complaint was they oversalted our pasta dishes. My ravioli and my mom's spaghetti were both heavily salted. My brother had the special, goat meat, and he loved it. Then we went on to Istanbul, which was an amazing city to explore. On your recommendation we had booked a tour with Istanbul Eats! I highly, highly recommend it. They are expanding to other cities as well so I advise chatters to do some research when they travel and see if a food tour is available. Our guide was wonderful, gave us lots and lots of insight and the ability to have a small group made the tour that much more intimate. We did the Two Markets, Two Continents tour and it was great to see the Asian side of Istanbul. Kadikoy is really wonderful to explore. Tasting turkish delight, turkish coffee, meatballs, tantuni (love!), turkish pizza, traditional mezze, baklava, and more! It was such a fun and memorable experience. I have lots of photos and most of the store owners really wanted us to email them any pictures we took as social media seems to be just taking off over there. Thanks for all the great suggestions, we ate very well out there (my brother is studying abroad at Bogazici University) and it was a amazing trip made better by all the good eats!

You make me hungry for Amsterdam and Istanbul all over again!  Thanks for following up. Much appreciated.

I'd suggest to the visitor: Fast Gourmet just because, and then, outside the city, go the The Majestic and Eve in Alexandria and then go ethnic (which really is "DC"): *Vietnamese--go to the Eden Center, in Falls Church: hit Huong Viet, Rice Paper, Song Que, Hai Duong, Nhu Lan [banh mi shop], Thanh Son Tofu [mock-meat emporium], Xe Lua [pho]) *Ethiopian--as noted, Ethiopic, on H St., then Meaza and Dama (in Arlington) *Afghan--Faryab, in Bethesda) *Bolivian --El Pike, in Falls Church, and Tutto Bene, in Arlington *Korean --To Sok Jip , Annandale; Han Sung Oak Restaurant, Falls Church

Lots and lots of good recommendations there, but visitors don't necessarily want to venture outside the city, or can't for whatever reason. Which explains my choices.

Hi Tom, I've noticed that whenever I go show up at a restaurant for a reservation that I've booked through Opentable,almost invariably the host/ess will mention that it's been booked through that website. It's not even slightly a big deal to me, but I'm just curious if that holds some significance for the front staff or the restaurant.

Can any restaurant owners weigh in?

or when the headwaiter or manager chews out the busboy -- newsflash, headwaiter/manager, just because you're in the hallway doesn't mean that the tables nearest you can't hear you swearing. It definitely affects the dining experience.

And on a totally different subject, I tweeted from an unamed restaurant over the weekend after discovering a hair in one of my dishes and a WAD OF GUM on my pepper shaker. First, what kind of diner does that? Second, what kind of waiter doesn't notice that?

My wife and I are heading to Oval Room for dinner on Saturday night. Any specific suggestions? Also after dinner for a nightcap and/or dessert we should walk to _______?

I haven't dropped by Oval Room in awhile, but in the past, I've enjoyed the kitchen's shrimp with lime and chilies (an appetizer) and pork chop with cornbread gnocchi and kimchi (a main course).   As for an after-dinner cocktail, try one of the two great bars at the Jefferson Hotel or the Tabard Inn, which claims one of the best dessert lists in town.

Tom, with the upcoming invasion of Cicadas to our area, do you care to share any good Cicada recipes with us? Cicada in white wine garlic butter sauce perhaps.

Cicadas again!  I bet Oyamel has an appropriate recipe. The Mexican recipes offers grasshopper tacos, after all. I'm thinking we could stir-fry 'em in a wok with garlic, olive oil and sea salt?

Since we are talking tipping, how do you handle a tip when there is something wrong with a dish and it gets taken off by the restaurant? Last week there was mold on my sandwich roll - the restaurant took the sandwich off the bill, but I have to admit I wasn't feeling too generous and only tipped on the rest of the bill

That's not the server's fault -- or maybe it is, because he/she didn't catch it?  I take these situations on a case by case basis. What sayeth the crowd today?

Hi Tom It's my 8 year wedding anniversary and my wife tasked me with finding a restaurant. She REALLY wants a tasting menu but I don't want to spend a fortune. She's been to corduroy plenty of times and really liked it (she hated brazins I think it was called), but the budget for a tasting menu is going to be $65/per person... does such place exist? I don't want to the break the bank since we're expecting out first child at the end of summer. I prefer to keep it American cuisine and if it's in DC it must be metro friendly, although nova is preferred. Pregnant and hungry wife are not the best combination if she has to work more than a block! Where are a few places you could suggest?

I've got just the place for you: Vermilion in Old Town. It's close to a Metro station, it's got loads of charm and the four-course, $60 tasting menu (with a vegetarian option) fits your budget.  Now all you need is a window table upstairs and you're set.

Tom: why in the world would you take time to review this guy. To be fair in your review you rightly mentioned that 17 year long years ago he won the Beard award but you failed to mention the vendors, investors and staff he didn't pay and/or failed to pay taxes and stole tips from. So now he gets a review from the Post for a 4 seat counter? Come on man! He's a bad actor!

(I was wondering how long it would take before I heard from a detractor! )


Roberto's 4 is a truly special culinary experience and certainly deserving of ink.  Regardless of what Donna has done in the past --- and I've certainly not ignored his tax and labor issues, nor has this newspaper --  I wouldn't be doing my job if I ignored his current contributions.  I've covered intimate dining experiences in the past, by the way:  Sushi Taro, Minibar, the bar at CityZen come to mind as examples. I'm not sure what size has to do with it?



Hi Tom. I'm going to Japan in June for about a week. Do you have any restaurant recommendations? I'd love to try a place like Sawada, RyuGin or one of the other high end places but I think that getting a reservation might not be possible (and several of the Michelin start places I looked into required that the reservation has to be made in-country). I'll be in both Tokyo and Kyoto and would love to try sushi places there that would be easy to navigate given my inability to speak Japanese. Thanks so much for your help!

Anyone out there familiar with Japan? My only experience has been at the Tokyo airport, I regret to say.

It's probably just a polite way of informing the customer that yes, you're going to get your OpenTable points for this booking.

My thought as well. We love those points!

This is a little crazy -- I think one person should be able to get to this very hot restaurant super early for one table. I think it would need to be limited to a four top, but one table overall. The one concern is that the full party needs to be ready to go when the table is ready so as not to throw off the seating for the night.

I hear you. But you know what it looks like when you are, say, number five in a line and then suddenly you're number 12 because "the rest of the party" suddenly materializes?

May I recommend a great place I ate at in November, Le P'tit Troquet, near the Ecole Militaire. There was a scallop starter that I would fly back just to try again.

Wow. Now that is a persuasive recommendation.

One of my tipping rules of thumb is to tip more than 20% in a diner or other lower-priced restaurant. The work is just as hard in such a place -- and sometimes harder because there often are fewer staff members to share the burden -- and the wait staff shouldn't be penalized for that.

I like your rule of tipping.

I experienced really bad service at Range, even from the manager after we alerted him to the server's problems (like she didn't even stop by to see if everything was OK until after we finished). A friend has been 3 times and reported it was good once and bad the other 2 times. Wouldn't recommend it until they get the service straight, which is a shame because the food was good and that area needs more options.


the mold was visible on the top of the roll and the server looked put out when I asked for a manager.

I would have tipped slightly less then, too.

Hi Tom, Do you know if the former 8407 chef is already on the job at the Golden Flame? We were big fans of his work at 8407 and glad to have such a nice place close to our house. The Golden Flame is even closer to us, but it always looks deserted from the outside, so we've assumed (perhaps mistakenly) that it wasn't worth trying. At any rate, we are very curious, but don't want to go until Pedro is there.

The chef is, in fact, at the 40-year-old Golden Flame, home to clams casino and prime rib, among other retro dishes.

I think Little Serow and Hanks need to install a red phone and they should just call over there to let the next group of people know when their table is ready. Last time I was there, 3 groups all got their text alerts at the exact same time.

Maybe tables opened up at the same time at LS?

Any other places you can think of for a tasting menu under $65/each. Wife has been to Vermilion and hated it.

Huh? Hard to imagine anyone hating the place.


Chatters, enjoyed any reasonably-priced tasting menus of late?

To me, "house-made" would imply something that's made by the kitchen, not "hand-chopped." That is, an Italian sausage made according to the chef's recipe, not purchased ready-to-cook from Cisco and added to the chef's sauce.

That's more or less my thinking, too. There has to be some craftsmanship behind whatever is being billed as home-made or house-made.

I can reiterate the previous diner's experience at Range. It was 45 minutes after our reservation time before the first cocktail arrived at our table. Perhaps the madness of 9 kitchens (or whatever their claim) is not reasonable? We noticed many small groups of employees whispering, arguing, pointing, etc. When we asked, they said they'd been open nearly 4

I hope these comments are read aloud at a certain restaurant's staff meeting tonight ...

The kind of diner who does that? A child (or adolescent). Which opens up that can of worms ...

No fair! I have to say, I've seen some remarkably composed pint-sized diners -- and some really loud, oafish adults -- in my restaurant rounds lately.

why can't they just take reservations? I hate when places don't and just don't bother to go, honestly. Why is my time so worthless to them that I should stand around?

Some restaurants don't need to take reservations, because of their size or their popularity, or both. But in a city of planners and schedulers, the policy (or lack thereof) drives some of us nuts.

I bet the poster/wife are terrible tippers- that's the impression I'm getting from his posts, at least. Amatuers like him are why it's becoming such a drag to go out to eat anymore.

I think you might be reading more into the earlier post (but I have to admit, his wife sounds a little, um, what's that phrase that Barbara Bush used to describe a certain Democrat who verbally messed with her mate?)

agreed. which restaurants claim the other ones?

Palena makes great desserts. So does Vidalia.  Then there are Blue Duck Tavern and  ... not many more, unfortunately.

Will this be the evidence you need to realize that the service you get is top-notch because you're a critic? I hope so....How many people went to Range because of the review you gave which was only good because of whom you are?

Trust me, I'm very aware of how things can change for critics who get recognized. But I expect restaurants to do no more -- or less -- for me than they would for anyone else. Range should know better.

I thought it was fine (and I don't look anything like you :)). Not the best service ever but no real complaints. And the food was delicious. I thought it would be tough for me, a pescatarian, to find enough to eat but it was great.

My meal there, with food editor (and newly out vegetarian) was terrific. So the fact the kitchen treated  fish with care is not a surprise.

I've only ever mentioned the website to guests when I can't find the reservation. It helps when trying to determine if someone on our end forgot to put it in or if a guest made their reservation for the wrong day.

Ah! I've certainly booked on the wrong day before. (Happens when you make 60 reservations a month on average.)

"How may people went to Range ..." overwhelming its ability to provide the kind of service it gave Tom. It's not uncommon for restaurants to go downhill after a good review brings in the crowds, frankly. Is that a reason not to review them well?

Fair point (and thanks for making it).

Have you been to the new Beau Thai in Mount Pleasant? Any recommendations? It's certainly a welcome addition to the hood!

Been there, yes. It's been packed every time I've gone for dinner.

Maybe they should hang out tags dressing room style so that everyone in line knows exactly how many people are about to jump in front of them!


Speaking of, any word on the post-Tony Chittum experience?

I've not been since the change of hands in the kitchen.

I was in Chicago recently and had tea at the Drake Hotel. It was a wonderful experience and we were treated royally. However, I think I forgot to tip the waiter. (I paid cash and only remember putting two twenties in the money folder, which would not have left a good tip--my friend and I were chatting and I was not really paying attention to what I was doing.) How I can I fix this? Should I send some cash to the hotel with a letter explaining the situation and describe our waiter (I don't recall his name, but he was pretty distinctive) and hope the money gets to him? Any advice?

I love diners like you. Not that you forgot to tip, but that it concerns you enough to do the right thing.  (I did that at  the aforementioned Gretje in Amsterdam after my second meal there, had to race back and explain myself with extra $$.) 


Back to you: Best to get the name of the GM or food & beverage manager and send your note and money to their office.


Lunch looms! Have a great weekend, everyone. See you back here April 24, same time.

In This Chat
Tom Sietsema
Weaned on a beige buffet a la "Fargo" in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. In thinner days, he was a critic for Microsoft Corp.'s and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; and a food reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the '80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section's recipes. That's how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.

He covers the local scene in his Dining, First Bite and Dish columns; keeps tabs on the world at large in his Postcard From Tom column and contributes tasty morsels to the Going Out Guide blog.
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